Archive | January 21st, 2014

US rep: Naziyahu the ‘next King David’

NOVANEWS

netanyahu1

Tea Party Republican Louie Gohmert believes the Israeli PM should use prayer gatherings to solve Israel’s many problems

Times of Israel

is no secret that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoys the respect of many members of the US Congress.

But one congressman may have outdone them all in his admiration for the Israeli leader.

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert compared the Israeli leader to King David and King Solomon, according to the liberal website The Raw Story.

“I told the prime minister, I said, ‘I mentioned this to you in 2009′ — we met a couple of times since then, but anyway — ‘I mentioned this to you in 2009 and I want to reiterate it, I think, I’m not a prophet, I know the Old Testament, I know history, I think you’ve got a chance to be one of Israel’s great leaders,’” Gohmert said Sunday at the South Carolina Tea Party convention in Myrtle Beach.

“And Michele [Bachmann] said, ‘He is one of Israel’s great leaders!’” he added.

“I said, ‘I am talking about all time. The big ones. Going back to David, to Solomon, up through Josiah, Hezekiah until the end, on up through Ben Gurion,’” the Texas Republican continued. “’All of the greatest leaders of Israel had one thing in common: They called upon the nation of Israel to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that has not happened in many decades.’”

Gohmert also urged the Israeli leader to use prayer gatherings to deal with the country’s many challenges.

“And I know you’ve got secularists, and I called off a couple, that you have to deal with here and tell them this is not for you, it is only for people who believe, but I’m declaring a national day of prayer and fasting in this crisis for God’s direction and protection, and for all of those who believe,” he said. “And I said, I promise you God will answer that prayer, the secularists will hear, the world will see, and even people in the United States will see, and Israel will be blessed because of you doing that.”

Gohmert, a tea party movement favorite, is a four-term congressman.

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Study: Bush, aides made 935 false statements in run-up to war

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President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.

art.bush.march03.afp.gi.jpg

President Bush addresses the nation as the Iraq war begins in March 2003.

“In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003,” reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

According to the study, Bush and seven top officials — including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice — made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.

The study was based on a searchable database compiled of primary sources, such as official government transcripts and speeches, and secondary sources — mainly quotes from major media organizations. Video See CNN viewers’ reactions to the study »

The study says Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein’s possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda.

Bush has consistently asserted that at the time he and other officials made the statements, the intelligence community of the U.S. and several other nations, including Britain, believed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Responding to the study Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not speak directly to the “false claims” characterization.

But he said the United States was part of a broad coalition of nations that took part in the Iraq invasion and that the invasion was based on intelligence from multiple countries.

He called Hussein a threat to international security and a sponsor of terrorism, and said the world is better off without him. White House press secretary Dana Perino called the study “flawed.”

“They only looked at members of the administration, rather than looking at members of Congress or people around the world,” she said. “Because as you’ll remember, we were part of a broad coalition of countries that deposed a dictator based on a collective understanding of the intelligence.”

“And the other thing that that study fails to do is to say that after realizing that there was no WMD, as we thought as a collective body that there was, that this White House, the President set about to make reforms in the intelligence community to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Bush has repeatedly said that despite the intelligence flaws, removing Hussein from power was the right thing to do.

The study, released Tuesday, says Powell had the second-highest number of false statements, with 244 about weapons and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer each made 109 false statements, it says. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made 85, Rice made 56, Cheney made 48 and Scott McLellan, also a press secretary, made 14, the study says.

“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda,” the report reads, citing multiple government reports, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the 9/11 Commission and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, which reported that Hussein had suspended Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to revive it.

The overview of the study also calls the media to task, saying most media outlets didn’t do enough to investigate the claims.

“Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical,” the report reads. “These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq.”

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The quotes in the study include an August 26, 2002, statement by Cheney to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney said. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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Lawmakers accuse Snowden of being Russian spy

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Two of the top lawmakers within the United States intelligence community say that Congress is now considering whether any officials in the Russian government have influenced the actions of US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Snowden, 30, has been in the Moscow area since last June when he became stranded there during a layover from Hong Kong after US authorities revoked his American passport. Seven months later, though, the heads of the United States House and Senate Intelligence Committees now claim that the former NSA contractor could very well be linked to the Russian government.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) — chairpersons of the House and Senate committees, respectively — each opined as to a secret Snowden-Russia relationship during appearances on the political talk show circuit this weekend.

Speaking on the CBS Program Face the Nation, Rep. Rogers suggested that a foreign nation state would more than likely have had a large role in influencing the type of intelligence taken by Mr. Snowden.

“When you look at the totality of the information he took, the vast majority of it had to do with military, tactical and operational events happening around the world,” he told the news program.

When Rogers caught up with Meet the Press host David Gregory at NBC News’ Washington, DC studios this weekend, he more explicitly implied that Russian’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, has had more than just a minor role with regards to Mr. Snowden’s activities.

“I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands – the loving arms – of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rep. Rogers said during a Meet the Press appearance that aired on Sunday “I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” he said.

Asked during that same program if she thinks Snowden has been working on behalf of the Russians, Sen. Feinstein responded, “He may well have.”

“We don’t know at this stage,” Feinstein said.

According to the Huffington Post, both Rogers and Feinstein admitted to being involved in investigations tasked with examining into that possibility.

As far as other senior officials are concerned, though, there isn’t any clear connection between Snowden and Russia just yet, aside from the fact, of course, that the former NSA contractor’s fate for the time being rests in the hands of Moscow officials. Russia Federal Migration service approved Mr. Snowden’s request for temporary asylum last August, and he is at this point free to roam the country through at least July 31, 2014. At that point, he may again have to appeal to the Russian government for assistance.

Senior US officials haven’t found evidence of any sort of link just yet, according to Reuters. The news outlet reported on Sunday that unnamed officials claimed just days earlier that the US “has no evidence at all that Snowden had any confederates who assisted him or guided him about what NSA materials to hack or how to do so.”

“There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” Mr. Snowden himself said during an interview with the New York Times back in October.

Meanwhile, however, the recent remarks courtesy of Rep. Rogers and Sen. Feinstein — two of the most adamant critics in Congress when it comes to Snowden’s actions — could lend other lawmakers to consider some sort of Russian connection that up until now has been undiscoverable.

Even before the chairpersons’ remarks were broadcast to the world, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) was on the ABC program This Week to weigh the Snowden saga.

“I don’t think…Mr. Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself. I think he was helped by others,” the lawmaker said.

“I personally believe that he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did. And he — I would submit, again, that he’s not a hero by any stretch. He’s a traitor. He — he lives not very far down the street from where I am right now, enjoying probably less freedoms today here in Russia than he had in the United States of America,” McCaul continued.

Asked by This Week host George Stephanopoulos if he specifically though the Russians had helped Snowden through his ordeal, McCaul responded, “You know, to say definitely, I can’t — I can’t answer that.”

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When will international justice save Palestine?

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UK Palestine injustice

By Stuart Littlewood

Eighteen months ago UK Foreign Secretary William Hague delivered an important speech at the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

He was saying all the right things, for example:

“The rule of law is critical to the preservation of the rights of individuals and the protection of the interests of all states.”

“You cannot have lasting peace without justice and accountability.”

“International laws and agreements are the only durable framework to address problems without borders.”

“Such agreements – if they are upheld – are a unifying force in a divided world.”

He spoke of a growing reliance on a rules-based international system. “We depend more and more on other countries abiding by international laws… We need to strengthen the international awareness and observance of laws and rules…”

Some emerging powers, he said, didn’t agree with us about how to act when human rights are violated on a colossal scale, while others didn’t subscribe to the basic values and principles of human rights in the first place. He was talking about Syria, although many in the audience must have had Israel in mind.

“The international community came together in an unprecedented way to address the crisis in Libya last year,” said Hague. “The Arab League, the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council, the European Union, NATO and the International Criminal Court all stepped forward and played their part to protect a civilian population.”

Yeah. Funny how they have never come together for crisis-torn Palestine these last 65 years.

 We pledge to fight impunity for grave international crimes wherever they occur”

Hague, positively overflowing with fine words and sentiments, chuntered on.

We have to ensure that when we are trying to build peace, we don’t overlook the need for justice… Our coalition government is firmly of the view that leaders who are responsible for atrocities should be held to account… Institutions of international justice are not foreign policy tools to be switched on and off at will.

He said referring leaders in Libya and Sudan to the ICC showed that not signing up to the Rome Statute was no guarantee for escaping accountability. “If you commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide you will not be able to rest easily in your bed: the reach of international justice is long and patient… There is no expiry date for these crimes…”

…we didn’t hear Hague and his friends call for a reckoning with the psychopaths of the Israeli regime when they committed mega-atrocities against Gaza’s civilians just two years earlier. Instead they tinkered with our laws of universal jurisdiction to enable suspected war criminals to walk free.

Woweee! Had he told Binyamin Netanyahu this? Was this tough talking really from the man who watered down Britain’s laws of Universal Jurisdiction to protect Israel’s war criminals from arrest while shopping in London’s Bond Street? Israel and the US, after signing up to the Rome Statute, had second thoughts and “unsigned” in order to escape the long reach of international justice. At last, it was beginning to sound like bad news for Tel Aviv’s and Washington’s thugs.

At the time of the Libya fiasco Hague announced he had signed a directive revoking Gaddafi’s diplomatic immunity and also that of his sons, his family and entire household. He bragged how the UK “drove” through a Security Council resolution referring what was happening in Libya to the ICC prosecutor, saying it “sends a clear message to all involved, in the regime and any other groups that if they commit crimes and atrocities there will be a day of reckoning for them”.

Bravo! What a splendidly high-principled chap Hague suddenly seemed to be. And how swiftly he managed to get the ICC’s attention when he wanted to. But we didn’t hear Hague and his friends call for a reckoning with the psychopaths of the Israeli regime when they committed mega-atrocities against Gaza’s civilians just two years earlier. Instead they tinkered with our laws of universal jurisdiction to enable suspected war criminals to walk free. Gaddafi wasn’t welcome in London but the Foreign Office happily rolled out the red carpet for Tzipi Livni, Lieberman, Barak and Netanyahu, while Hague conducted the brass band.

Our foreign secretary rounded off his speech by saying:

There is no doubt where Britain stands: we are with those who say that international law is universal and that all nations are accountable to it… We are a country that believes in and upholds the Responsibility to Protect, and that is prepared to act to save lives – including through military action as a last resort. We actively support a rules-based international system… We pledge to recommit to the importance of fighting impunity for grave international crimes wherever they occur… We will be a robust supporter of the International Criminal Court in its investigations.

Trampled Palestinians dispossessed by a brutal military occupier and sitting among the smoking ruins of their homes, or eking out a squalid existence in their refugee camp, must have been impressed.

UK support for ICC “unswerving”

A year after Hague’s splendidly robust performance, a policy paper issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, dated July 2013, hammered home the points he had made with these “key messages”:

  • Our support for international criminal justice and accountability is a fundamental element of our foreign policy.
  • Our support for the ICC as a court of last resort and the importance of its role when national courts have been unwilling or unable to deliver justice is unswerving.

The document also promised that the UK government would be “a powerful advocate of the ICC in all our diplomatic relations” and “encourage more states to ratify and accede to the Rome Statute… Widening the reach of the Court beyond the current 122 states parties will increase accountability and help challenge impunity.”

And if nations didn’t play ball, the British government would consider mechanisms “to enforce cooperation and to take effective action against those who fail to cooperate”.

What, including Israel?

Heavens, no. Although the Foreign Office says: “Our support for the ICC is unswerving,” Agent Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, has said: “Our support for Israel… is unshakable.” The two opposing positions, unshakable and unswerving, are hopelessly incompatible. And in this case unswerving trumps unshakable. Sorry folks, international justice automatically switches off when it comes to Israel’s war crimes.

Every state should join the ICC – except Palestine?

In a masterly critique, analyst Dr David Morrison exposes Hague’s dishonesty. The occupying power in Palestine – Israel – has long been committing acts that Britain regards as illegal. “Our position on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace and make a two-state solution harder to achieve,” states the FCO’s website.

Not just illegal, settlement building is actually a war crime under the Rome Statute. “It involves the occupying power transferring some of its own civilian population to the territory it occupies,” explains Dr Morrison. “And under Article 8.2(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies is a war crime.”

Since Israel has transferred well over 500,000 Israeli civilians into territory it occupies, and is still doing so, there is a prima facie case that Israelis responsible for the settlement programme, including the present prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, are guilty of war crimes. Americans and others who fund settlement projects may be guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes.

As we’ve seen, the FCO’s strategy paper talks about extending the ICC’s jurisdiction so that it can more easily challenge impunity. But, says Morrison, eagerness to challenge Israeli impunity was conspicuously absent when Hague spoke in the House of Commons on 28 November 2012. Then, he offered UK support for a UN General Assembly resolution granting Palestine statehood on condition that Palestinian leaders promised they would not become party to the Rome Statute. Hague told MPs that if the Palestinians pursued ICC jurisdiction over the occupied territories at this stage, it could make a return to negotiations impossible.

Since Israel has transferred well over 500,000 Israeli civilians into territory it occupies, and is still doing so, there is a prima facie case that Israelis responsible for the settlement programme, including the present prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, are guilty of war crimes.

“Believe it or believe it not,” says Dr Morrison, “it is British policy to extend the jurisdiction of the ICC to every corner of the earth, except the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. There it is apparently inappropriate for Britain to challenge impunity.”

Two days later, Israel retaliated against the UN granting statehood to Palestine by announcing plans for yet more settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hague’s response was the same old mantra: “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties.” If settlements are illegal under international law, then those responsible should be tried in an international court and, if found guilty, punished appropriately. “Dare I suggest,” asks Dr Morrison, “that, to this end, Palestine should be encouraged to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC?”

A state can grant jurisdiction to the court by becoming a party to the Rome Statute (Article 12(1)) or by making an ad hoc declaration accepting the court’s jurisdiction (Article 12(3)). The Palestinian Authority in January 2009 tried to grant the ICC jurisdiction over the occupied territories by making an ad hoc declaration, so that Israelis could be prosecuted for atrocities against Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. But the ICC Prosecutor took more than three years to decide that the court couldn’t accept the jurisdiction. Whether or not Palestine was a “state” within the meaning of Article 12(3) was a question for the UN secretary-general who, in case of doubt, would defer to the guidance of General Assembly.

The UN General Assembly shortly afterwards passed resolution A/RES/67/19 accepting Palestine as a state, apparently settling the question. However, the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has said, reportedly, that she doesn’t think retrospective claims could be considered going all the way back to the founding of the court in 2002. The earliest would most likely be 29 November 2012, the date when the UN recognized Palestine as a state.

Nearly 14 months have gone by and the Palestinians still haven’t joined the ICC because they’ve come under fierce pressure, especially from the US, not to do so. They promised the US not to apply for membership of any of the UN’s bodies until April 2014 when the present round of US-brokered “negotiations” with Israel is due to end.

“It is absolutely outrageous,” says Dr Morrison, “that the US, with the support of Britain and others, has pressurized Palestinians into forgoing a possible legal means of redress against the illegal actions by the power that has held them under military occupation for almost 50 years”.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on When will international justice save Palestine?

Syria talks: Iran and Russia angry over invitation withdrawal

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ussian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the UN's withdrawal of Iran's invitation to Syrian peace talks was a mistake, but not a catastrophe. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

ussian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the UN’s withdrawal of Iran’s invitation to Syrian peace talks was a mistake, but not a catastrophe. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Guardian

Bashar al-Assad’s key international allies in Moscow and Tehran have reacted angrily to the UN’s decision to rescind Irans invitation to this week’s peace talks on the crisis in Syria.

The UN hastily withdrew its surprise invitation after pressure from the US and a threat that the Syrian opposition would boycott the talks.

The build-up to the talks, which are due to start in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday, is being overshadowed by Iran’s non-attendance, and new evidence showing the Syrian government has been involved in the systematic killing of thousands of political detainees.

Iran, which is accused of providing military and financial backing to the Assad government, said the decision to withdraw its invitation was deplorable.

Russias foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who helped broker the talks with his US counterpart, John Kerry, said the UN move was a mistake. While it was not a catastrophe, it made the slim prospect of an agreement less likely, he said.

Speaking at his annual press conference in Moscow, Lavrov said Iran’s presence at the event would have given it more chance of succeeding.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking to reporters in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, said it was regrettable that the UN general secretary had rescinded the invitation and that Tehran had only accepted it reluctantly in the first place.

“Unfortunately, Ban Ki-moon came under pressure after extending an invitation to Iran,” Zarif said, according to the semi-official Isna news agency. “We were not eager to participate in the first place and had only decided to attend because we were invited.”

He added: “It is disappointing that Ban Ki-moon does not have the courage to announce the reasons why he retracted his invitation … It is regrettable that he is demonstrating such behaviour.”

Zarif said the decision not to state the reason for the retraction was more regrettable than the retraction itself.

“They said the withdrawal of the invitation had to do with the statements inside our country but this shows that they are unwilling to admit that they withdrew it due to pressure from the US and certain groups who have the blood of Syrian people on their hands.”

He added: “We said, from the beginning, that we accept no precondition for Iran’s presence at the Geneva II meeting since Iran has had an important role in this region and they cannot ignore this role.”

Earlier, Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said: “From our point of view, the withdrawal is deplorable.”

On Monday it emerged that Ban had invited Iran to the talks without first asking Tehran to agree to a transitional government in Syria, as set out in the first Geneva agreement in 2012.

As soon as Iran’s invitation was rescinded, Syria’s opposition national coalition confirmed its participation in the forthcoming talks, known as Geneva II.

Lavrov reiterated the position of Syria and Iran that there should be no preconditions for dialogue, saying: “We will put forward our hope that direct dialogue between the Syrian sides will take place with no preconditions.”

He said the most important issue on the agenda was “the growth of extremism and terrorism” in Syria, echoing comments made by Assad in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

Commenting on the latest war crimes allegations, Lavrov said the first task was to stop the armed conflict: “Afterwards as part of national reconciliation, yes, then there is international experience of setting up truth commissions and so on. But the facts need to be checked.”

Ban’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said the secretary general “continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva communique. Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, [Ban] has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation.”

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No basis for US spinning Geneva communiqué to demand Assad’s resignation

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The building of the Permanent Mission of the European Union to the United Nations Office in Geneva is seen on January 9, 2014 (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

The building of the Permanent Mission of the European Union to the United Nations Office in Geneva is seen on January 9, 2014 (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)

Nile Bowie

Preconditions placed on attending the Geneva 2 conference insisted on by the United States are detrimental to building a conducive environment for ending the fighting in Syria.

Despite months of effort by diplomats and the international community, the long-awaited Geneva 2 peace conference is in disarray. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) – an exiled umbrella organization supported by Western and Gulf states that represents a negligible segment of rebel groups on the ground – has agreed to attend the talks under heavy pressure from their backers. Division runs deep for many within the group who oppose the decision to attend Geneva 2, and the SNC’s presence at the talks are still in question.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to extend an invitation to Iran prompted the SNC to threaten pulling out of the talks if the UN’s invitation to Tehran is not rescinded. Even if the peace talks proceed, the unpleasant prospect that nothing tangible will emerge from them due to irreconcilable differences between the two sides looks like the most plausible outcome.

One of the key obstacles facing the negotiations is the SNC’s lack of legitimacy and its capriciousness, and that its members are mostly exiled Syrian dissidents who are not seen as credible by the fighters on the ground, primarily among Islamist groups that dominate the battlefield. The belief that the SNC can accomplish something meaningful at the negotiating table is cast deeper into doubt by critical assessments from dissenting former members of the group.

In a recent letter explaining his resignation, former SNC Secretary-General Mustafa al-Sabbagh concedes that the organization failed to extend humanitarian relief efforts and to make any political or military progress; he describes the SNC as “a body that is entirely separate from the Syrian domestic arena.” Former member Mohammad Bassam Imadi’s description is no less critical; he stated in a recent interview that the SNC “…was only some expatriates who were living outside Syria, they lost touch with reality in Syria. They didn’t know what was going on… They thought that within a few months they will become presidents or ministers so they were not interested in doing anything other than contacting the foreign powers…”

‘Assad has no place in Syria’s future’

It is against the backdrop of an incapable and divided opposition coalition that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s demands that President Assad moves aside as a non-negotiable outcome of the Geneva 2 talks seem all the more untenable. The US side argues that President Assad cannot have any part in Syria’s political future, and that Geneva 2 must serve as a platform to initiate the Geneva communiqué established in June 2012, which according to Washington calls for the establishment of a transitional government tasked with facilitating free and fair elections.

Damascus has agreed to send a delegation of senior diplomats to the talks, but maintains that certain points in the Geneva communiqué are in conflict with the legal and political position of the Syrian state. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has ostensibly set conditions for the talks by announcing that prisoner exchanges and a ceasefire in Aleppo would be on the table for discussions at Geneva 2.

Muallem claimed that the Aleppo ceasefire could be used as a blueprint for armistices in other conflict zones if proven successful, and despite this offer being the most substantive yet proposed to deescalate the crisis, John Kerry condemned it with appalling arrogance, stating, “If Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he’s going to be part of that future, it’s not going to happen.”

As one of the staunch backers of Syria’s rebels, the United States has unabashedly taken positions against the Syrian government based on invalid and fallacious hearsay and false claims; it has not attempted to obscure that the toppling of President Assad remains one of its principle foreign policy aims as the CIA continues its covert programs to bolster rebel fighters. Washington cannot be seen as a meaningful peace-broker in the Syrian conflict while at the same time demanding a pre-emptive surrender of one of the two negotiating parties in the dialogue, such a notion is completely contrary to the very premise of negotiation.

Misreading the Geneva communiqué

The formal mandate for the conference was agreed upon in 2012 and is known as the Geneva communiqué; the Syrian and Iranian governments have not publically endorsed it.

Washington’s insistence that Assad must step down to facilitate a transitional government is couched in a misreading of the communiqué text, which contains no clauses that stipulate that President Assad or any other government official must step aside.

The text calls for “the launch of a Syrian-led political process leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future,” and a “future that can be shared by all in Syria.” The communiqué calls for newly emerging political actors to compete fairly and equally in multi-party elections, while rejecting sectarianism and ethnic or religious discrimination. The text also mandates the creation of a neutral transitional governing body that would exercise full executive powers, which specifically could“include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

Furthermore, the documents states, “The process must be fully inclusive to ensure that the views of all segments of Syrian society are heard in shaping the political settlement for the transition.”

A fair interpretation of the text infers that all segments of Syrian society should shape political outcomes, including government supporters. It is no secret that President Assad’s forces have made significant strides on the battlefield and have the upper hand at the negotiating table. There is still political division in Syria’s major cities, but the government has made inroads into rebel strongholds in the north and south. The government firmly controls the western coastal areas and an increasing amount of critical supply routes and highways between Damascus and Aleppo. As long as the opposition consists of out-of-touch exiled dissidents with dual-citizenship or hardline Sunni Islamist militias being supported from Gulf countries, the Syrian government would likely extend its mandate if elections were held. Elections cannot be “free and fair” if the candidate most likely to win is excluded.

Negotiations for Syria’s stability

For the vast majority of Syrians who have weathered incredible hardship and tragedy since this conflict began, restoring some semblance of security and stability takes precedent over all else.

It should be considered that even if peace talks between Damascus and the SNC produce favorable outcomes, many of the most radical groups would not honor the ceasefire and still continue to fight. Even in a scenario where Assad steps down, these groups will not yield and may even push harder if a power vacuum is created. It would be incredibly difficult to maintain ceasefires in conflict zones for extended periods of time due to a vast array of groups opposing the peace talks and opposing each other. Even so, the SNC and Syrian government should put their differences aside and attempt to negotiate measures to deescalate the fighting so humanitarian supplies can be made available to wider segments of the population where possible.

The Geneva 2 talks will be the first face-to-face meeting between the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition since the country’s crisis began in March 2011, and to expect a transitional government to emerge at this stage is entirely premature.

The scope of these talks should not be about power politics, but focused on implementing ceasefires and making available legitimate humanitarian supplies such as food, clothing and medicine. No matter the outcome of peace talks, the Syrian government will have to continue pursuing a military solution to rid the country of radical militias and terrorist groups, and if ‘moderate’ groups are interested in peace, they should align themselves with the Syrian Arab Army and assist them in re-establishing order in the country. Due to the regional nature of the conflict, players such as Saudi Arabia and Iran should attend without preconditions to negotiate some kind of compromise that would reduce and end material support to non-state actors fighting on both sides in Syria.

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One Marine’s view: keep Syria secular, pluralistic, and free of foreign insurgents

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Armenian Church of the Martyrs in Raqqa. Under rebel control, it was turned into a mosque and proselytism center, flying the black flag of Al-Qaeda (ISIS)

Armenian Church of the Martyrs in Raqqa. Under rebel control, it was turned into a mosque and proselytism center, flying the black flag of Al-Qaeda (ISIS)

Levant Report

Only a couple of major newspapers in the world have bothered to regularly cover the plight of Syria’s diverse religious and ethnic minorities living in rebel held areas. Lebanon’s The Daily Star and Al-Akhbar newspapers have featured consistent coverage of Syria’s Armenians, Kurds, Iraqis, Druze, Christians, and Ismailis – and the threats these communities face in opposition held parts of Syria. Read the latest Al-Akhbar coverage of two Armenian Christian business owners who dared to stay in Northern Syria, attempting to hold on to their family livelihood in a rebel controlled area. They were arrested, forced to convert, executed with bullets to the head, and denied burial.

The Syrian opposition was sold to the world by mainstream Western press from day one of the Syria conflict as representing democracy, freedom, and a pluralist future for a new Syria. But the last couple of years testify the complete opposite. Anyone who actually spent time in Syria prior to the conflict knows that Ba’athist Syria has always been unique in the region for the high degree of freedom that minorities exercise.

I’ve personally seen the very public way that Syria’s religious and ethnic minorities comfortably fit in to Syrian society. One can see crosses everywhere in nearly every Syrian urban center, or hear church services transmitted over loudspeakers in competition with the Muslim call to prayer echoed from nearby mosques. The multi-colored Druze star is visible in suburbs of Damascus and all over villages in the south of the country. Any visitor to Aleppo immediately notices the very public Armenian presence with Armenian script proudly displayed in market places.

In the Hauran region, one can visit a recently erected huge government sponsored memorial to the Druze patriarch Sultan al-Atrash, who famously said, “Religion is for God, the fatherland is for all.” In the dozens of hotels around the Damascus city center, one encounters Kurdish bellhops who are proud to tell visitors of their Kurdish identity. One of the largest Christ statues in the world was recently erected over the ancient village of Saidnaya. The Orthodox monastery that sits at its base was, in the last months, the recipient of rocket attack by rebel insurgents hoping to gain control of the mountain that dominates the surrounding villages.

Speaking of Saidnaya, on one of my visits in the mid-2000′s I was shocked to see special media coverage on SANA – Syria’s national TV news station, of a reported miracle connected to the village’s 6th century Our Lady of Saidnaya Monastery. A wealthy Saudi Muslim man was attacked and robbed while driving to visit the Christian monastery (revered even among area Muslims as a place of spiritual healing). The man’s throat was slit and he was stuffed into the back of his car and left to die. When the police found him, the man swore that the Virgin Mary came to him, healed his slit throat, and restored him to health there on the spot. The story made national prime time news. Perhaps the most miraculous aspect to the episode for me was the fact that the story of a miracle connected to a Christian village aired on national news in a country that was 70-75% Sunni Muslim.

This is a side of Syria only known to those who have spent a significant amount of time there. Sadly, the standard narrative of the Syria conflict has been constructed by reporters, pundits, and politicians who have hardly stepped foot inside Syria, if at all. This is why, even aside from the silly singular reliance on rebel sources for information, subtle but hugely significant mistakes are made with even the basic facts of Syrian society and history. Hugely influential outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, or CNN routinely identify the regime as ”Shia-dominated” – or alternately, Assad as “pro-Shia”. From this, they construct and over-emphasize their narrative of “Shia vs. Sunni” sectarian civil war.

Anyone who knows anything about the esoteric Alawite identity and faith knows it is nothing close to Shi’ism, whatever the historical roots might be. Syria’s close relationship with Iran is, and has always been, a matter of convenience as part of a self-imagined “axis of resistance”. This has little to do with Shia religious ties and identity.

During the 2006 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, I was walking through the Christian section of Old City Damascus. I walked past the window of a prominent Christian bakery and saw large Hezbollah cakes. The cakes featured Hezbollah’s green and yellow AK-47 and clenched fist emblem glazed in icing, as well as small images of a burning Israeli battleship. The cakes were commemorating Hezbollah’s recent successful drone attack of an Israeli warship stationed off the Lebanese coast. That a Christian baker would make and promote such a cake had nothing to do with being “pro-Shia” – but was about a shared feeling and identity of “resistance”. The idea that Assad (or his regime) is Shi’ite with a supposed pro-Shia mission is based in ignorance and disinformation.

Based on my experience living in Syria, my many contacts with Syrians inside the country and abroad, and my personal grappling with the tragedy that has befallen a beautiful country, I’ve come to one certain conclusion:

The fight in Syria is between those that want to continue Syria’s pluralistic and secular identity – those that want to ensure a high degree of personal social and religious freedoms, and those that want to erect fanatic Sunni rule along the lines of a Taliban or Saudi religious police state model. The latter, among actual Syrian nationals (as opposed to the mass flux of foreign fighters), are in the minority; and this means that the current “rebel opposition” is in reality an aggressive terrorist insurgency (and this was so much earlier than the major media pundits will ever recognize). Sadly, this insurgency is only made strong through its significant Saudi, Qatari, and NATO support and funding. I say all of this while fully acknowledging that there have been real crimes and shortcomings of the regime.

The Western pundits don’t know what to make of Assad’s continuing to stay in power – a reality contrary to their every prediction of his immediate demise sounded every few months over the past two years. Since it is they who’ve attempted to frame the narrative in purely sectarian terms, they ought to be asked: why hasn’t Damascus, with its clear majority Sunni population, thrown off the “hated” dictator?

The answer is simple. The majority of Syrians, whether Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, Kurd, Ismaili, are sane individuals – they’ve seen what life is like under the “alternative”. They recognize that there is a real Syrian national identity, and it goes beyond mere loyalty to the current ruling clique that happens to be in power, but in Syria as a pluralistic Levantine society that doesn’t want to model itself on Saudi Arabia.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on One Marine’s view: keep Syria secular, pluralistic, and free of foreign insurgents

Chemical Claims: MIT study finds Syrian regime not behind rocket attacks

NOVANEWS

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Chemical Claims: MIT study finds Syrian regime not behind rocket attacks

Call it GENOCIDE not APARTHEID

NOVANEWS
by Nahida Exiled Palestinian

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Words, in the battle of Liberation are of prime importance, but in the age of Internet, where Cyber Battles are waged, between truth and falsehood, the use of the right word becomes more vital than ever.

We have observed how the word, “apartheid” has crept in and has been intensely used by many Palestinians and their supporters without much reflection upon the meaning, implications or outcome of such use.

The definition of “Apartheid” 

a·part·heid  (-pärtht, -ht)

n.

1. An official policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.
2. policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.
3. The condition of being separated from others; segregation.

Thus, the use of apartheid to describe “Israel”, the entity which was established by terror, planned ethnic cleansing and continues to practice slow genocide is extremely inappropriate, insufficient and falls very short from giving a complete and accurate portrait.

Calling “Israel” an Apartheid is a CONCEALMENT of Genocide 

Calling the Zionist entity mere “apartheid”, i.e “separation”, would only serve in concealing the true genocidal nature of the Jewish state, and present it as a “normal” and “legitimate” political system with only few holes, some racist laws, and wrong policies which can be easily changed. Such use would promote the legitimization of this entity. From a legal aspect, crimes of apartheid does not carry the same weight in International Law as Crimes against Humanity,thus may be harder to prosecute.

Campaigning to demand that the existing Jewish state, would change some of its policies (rather than to call for its dismantling and delegitimisation, to end this entity, once and for all) would simply enable the usurpation of historic Palestine.

Calling for ODS (one democratic state, as a continuation of “Israel”), while ignoring the right of Palestinians to FULL LIBERATION, would enable the Zionist entity toexpand and enlarge its boundaries, to encompass the ENTIRE land of Palestine, by annexing what remains of Palestine.

Calling for “equal rights” between mass-murderers and their victims, means wilful participation in wiping out the Palestinian Identity, under “Israeli” authority thus promoting giving Palestinians “israeli” citizenship,  which means unwittingly promoting the “israelization” of what remains of Palestinians, i.e upgrading their state from “occupied Palestinians” to “israeli slaves”.

I call upon our people and our supporters to be alert and not to participate in whitewashing the crimes of the Jewish state, by calling it an “apartheid” rather than what it really is, a genocidal, supremacist, expansionist, ethnic-cleansing entity.

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The Genocide Convention

Article 2 of the United Nations issued Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states:
“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:
1. Killing members of the group; [Israel …guilty]

2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; [Israel …guilty]

3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; [Israel …guilty]
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [Israel …guilty]
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Article 4 states:
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Nuremberg Principles

Principle VI. states,
“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
(b) War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to,murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”
In Contrast:
In contrast:The Sanhedrin Principles:

“A king should not wage other wars before a milchemet mitzvah. What is considered as milchemet mitzvah? The war against the seven nations who occupied Eretz Yisrael, the war against Amalek, and a war fought to assist Israel from an enemy which attacks them.

Afterwards, he may wage a milchemet hareshut, (war of aggression) i.e. a war fought with other nations in order to expand the borders of Israel or magnify its greatness and reputation.

Mishneh Torah, Chapter 1, Halacha 2: 

Amalek’s seed should be annihilated before the construction of the Temple

THE LAWS OF KINGS AND THEIR WARS

6) The obligation to destroy the seven nations living in the Land of Canaan;
7) The prohibition against allowing any one of them to remain alive;
8) The obligation to destroy the descendents of Amalek;
9) The obligation to remember what Amalek did;

“If the enemy accepts the offer of peace and commits itself to the fulfillment of the seven mitzvot that were commanded to Noah’s descendents, none of them should be killed. Rather, they should be subjugated as ibid.:11 states: ‘They shall be your subjects and serve you.’
If they agree to tribute, but do not accept subjugation or if they accept subjugation, but do not agree to tribute, their offer should not be heeded. They must accept both.
The subjugation they must accept consists of being on a lower level, scorned and humble. They must never raise their heads against Israel, but must remain subjugated under their rule. They may never be appointed over a Jew in any matter whatsoever.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Call it GENOCIDE not APARTHEID

Harper tells Knesset: Anti-Zionism is the new face of anti-Semitism

NOVANEWS

Zionist Stephen Harper is first  Canadian  PM to  address  the  Knesset;  ‘Canada won’t tolerate delegitimization of Israel’.

Haaretz

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday became the first leader of his country to address the Knesset, telling parliamentarians that Canada supported Israel’s right to statehood and would not tolerate efforts to delegitimize it within the international community.

Speaking in both French and English, Canada’s national languages, Harper opened his address by telling members of Knesset that “Canada and Israel are friends in a natural way.”

“To truly understand the ties between Canada and Israel one must go beyond the institutions and look at the ties between peoples,” Harper said. “Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years… 350,000 Canadians share with you their heritage. They are immensely proud of what was accomplished here.”

“Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so,” he added. “We stand up for a free and democratic Jewish state.”

But, Harper said, Canada also supports the creation of a Palestinian state. “Just as we support Israel we support peace for the Palestinians,” Harper said, later adding: “I believe that a Palestinian state will come when the people will realize that peace is the way.”

Canada will not accept the delegitimization of Israel, Harper declared. “Canada finds it horrible that there are those in the international community who challenge Israel’s legitimate right to exist,” he said. “That with one solitary Jewish state among many others, it is all too easy to isolate Israel.”

The Canadian prime minister also told MKs that he believed expression of anti-Zionism to be on par with anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism still exists in its traditional form based on ignorance in some of the dark corners of the world,” he said. “In the Western world it takes on a more sophisticated form. With some intellectualized arguments on some campuses.This is the new face of anti-Semitism.”

Harper also turned his attention to the issue of Iran, which dominated headlines on Monday after the Islamic Republic began halting uranium enrichment and prompted the U.S. to suspend some its sanctions. “Canada’s sanctions against Iran will stay in place,” Harper vowed.

While Harper’s speech was welcomed by most parliamentarians, he was heckled by two Arab lawmakers: MK Ahmad Tibi screamed “settlements,” and MK Talab Abu Arar then shouted and stormed out of the hall. After the outburst, Harper received a standing ovation from other parliamentarians.

A royal welcome

Harper arrived in Israel for his first visit on Sunday night, greeted with a royal welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu considers Harper his best, perhaps only, friend among today’s world leaders, and to be a wholehearted supporter of his government’s policy.

In introducing Harper to the Knesset, Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart: “The people of Israel appreciate your steadfast support and sincere friendship. Welcome to Israel, dear friend.”

“There are those in the international community know the true facts, but you have the bravery to stick to the truth and to say the truth,” Netanyahu added. “Canada under your leadership is a moral compass and a lighthouse of honesty in the age of hypocrisy we live in.”

Throwing in some Canadian humor, Netanyahu told Harper: “There are streets in Toronto that are longer than the distance between Jerusalem and Ramallah,” referring to Yonge Street, which feeds into the TransCanada Highway. “This is why security is crucial.”

Netanyahu also praised Canada for standing with Israel against those who would delegitimize it, for backing it in the war on terror and against anti-Semitism, and for supporting a real peace with has “at its roots the Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish national state.”

Changing subject to Iran, Netanyahu said, “The international community must take the Iranian nuclear train off the tracks in a permanent agreement… it is about time the international community stop legitimizing Iran while it is still calling for the destruction of Israel,” he said.

During a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah earlier on Monday, Harper dodged a question about the Israeli settlements. “I will not single out Israel on this trip,” he said. “Our position on this is known.”

This is Harper’s first visit since his election in 2006, and he is the first Canadian prime minister to ever address the Knesset. He will also receive an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University.

On the eve of Harper’s visit to Israel, the Foreign Ministry in Ottawa issued an updated policy paper on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although many on the right believe the Harper government to be a full-fledged supporter of Israeli policy on the Palestinian issue, the policy paper states that Canada believes the settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace.

The policy statement, published on January 13, six days before Harper’s arrival in Jerusalem, points out that Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories conquered in 1967 and says the settlements constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. “Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” it reads.

The policy paper reveals that the Canadian government also does not support Israeli policy on Jerusalem, for Netanyahu’s demand for recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, nor Netanyahu’s position that not a single Palestinian refugee will return to Israel.

Canada’s stated support, however, for Israel touches on several issues – security arrangements, Israel’s right to self-defense, and opposition to anti-Israel discrimination at the UN.

The policy statement says that Canada recognizes Israel’s right to ensure its security: “Israel has a right under international law to take the necessary measures, in accordance with human rights and international humanitarian law, to protect the security of its citizens from attacks by terrorist groups.”

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, CanadaComments Off on Harper tells Knesset: Anti-Zionism is the new face of anti-Semitism

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